One In A Million?


It is not one man nor a million, but the spirit of liberty that must be preserved. The waves which dash upon the shore are, one by one, broken, but the ocean conquers nevertheless. It overwhelms the Armada, it wears out the rock. In like manner, whatever the struggle of individuals, the great cause will gather strength.

Lord Byron (1788-1824)

I was not fortunate enough to be able to travel to Washington D.C. today to be a part of yet another historic occasion. After spending time in another of the “masses” in April, 1993, I can only imagine what it must have felt like to have been there. Rather, today, I sat and observed the happenings on CNN and C-SPAN. At various times, I cried. I laughed. I worried. I criticized. Generally, though, I came away happy, with a sense of good will and with hope for a better tomorrow for myself, my distant family, my people, and my nation. (I even learned a new word: diaspora.)

It was called the Million Man March, a gathering of African-American males from across the land, as far and wide as the land itself. There were many things said about the March, true and false. Probably still so. That women were not invited. That admission was charged. However, most charged were the comments that Black people should not participate because of the leadership which suggested the March.

Last week, when discussing the March with a Black male friend of mine, I was disquieted that Minister Louis Farrakhan was the principal voice behind the March. I’m still disquieted as I write this. I sat today and heard co-organizer Benjamin Chavis say that you cannot separate the messenger from the message. Al Sampson of Fernwood United Methodist Church in Chicago implied the same thing. Still, many others feel that the message and the messenger are indeed separate. Regardless, Minister Farrakhan should be respected for making the call. As stated in the American mythology Star Trek, “Only Nixon could go to China”.

However, I am even more disquieted by a gnawing at my insides. I’m sitting here wondering how I, a black gay male, would be received in the Black community’s new world order. Minister Farrakhan asked us to return to our neighborhoods, join an organization, join a church, give up drugs, and black-on-black crime. Is there tolerance enough in this movement to include me and those like me? Or, are we to suffer a distinction that will keep us apart from our communities?

I don’t have an answer for that; I’m not sure I should even care. For if the messenger is listening to his own message, then it should not matter whether I am gay or not. All that should matter is that I have something to offer like the other million or so men on the Mall today.

Ciao for now!
Mike

How To Make An American Quilt

My apologies to those who might think this is about the new movie starring Wynona Ryder and others. I admit it. I did it deliberately to draw you in.

Two weeks ago, outside the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, I was fortunate to view once again the AIDS Memorial Quilt. I first saw it in April, 1993 when I attended the March On Washington. It was then and now a powerful experience.

The Quilt is massive. I was told in Pasadena that it is 35,000 panels large. And, it grows at the rate of 5,000 panels a year. If you get the opportunity to see each panel, it can represent one or more persons who have died of AIDS and its complications. In my two experiences with the Quilt, I’ve become overwhelmed by its awesome size and by what that size represents. That’s thousands upon thousands of Americans who have died of this painful scourge. Thousands and thousands of Americans who have been seemingly ignored by their own government.

The Quilt holds a special place in my heart. My sister, a practicing heterosexual, died of AIDS in 1991. She was 41. In fact, I didn’t realize until this moment that in terms of years, I have outlived my sister. Marcia was a beautiful woman who had five children. Two of those children, my youngest nephews, have NO parents. Their father had also contracted AIDS and died years before. Marcia was much on my mind when I first saw the Quilt in Washington, D.C. that spring day. I looked at the panels, thought of my sister, and looked at those alabaster buildings which seem to contain an uncaring, unfeeling bureaucracy uninterested in the plight of millions of Americans.

Some of my friends from The Fireplace and I are getting together next October in Washington D.C. We want very much to put faces and human contact on the correspondence of people we’ve only met on cyberspace and on the telephone. We also want to view the entire AIDS Memorial Quilt on the Mall. It will be a massive effort, but I — for one — feel that it will be necessary to demonstrate to the American government and the people it represents the awesome responsibility it faces every day until this plague is wiped out. I can’t think of a better time, one month before the National elections, of making this pilgrimage.

I wish you will join us there.

Don’t settle for misinformation. I hope you’ll check out some of the resources below the line for information about AIDS and HIV. Thanks!

Ciao for now!
Mike

Resources

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